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Top stories for June 29, 2010
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DU to receive $2.5 million grant for Gulf Coast habitat work

Last week, Ducks Unlimited was notified it will receive a $2.5 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to provide additional habitat for waterfowl and other birds that will migrate to the Gulf Coast later this year. This partnership between NFWF and DU will seek to restore and enhance upwards of 20,000 acres of wetland habitat on lands adjacent to or near Gulf Coast marshes.

Pelican in oil-affected coastal marshThe funds will be used to flood alternative habitats in the critical rice region of coastal Louisiana and Texas. The areas to be flooded will provide crucial migration and wintering habitat within the Gulf Coast region. This will be especially important if oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill is pushed into fresh and intermediate salinity marshes by storms later this summer and fall. Normally, fresh and intermediate salinity marshes winter vast numbers of ducks, shorebirds, wading birds and other wetland-dependent birds.

The additional habitat will also help address long-term deficits in feeding habitat resulting from massive coastal wetland losses during the past decades. A recent Gulf Coast Joint Venture (GCJV) study found that in southeast Louisiana alone, coastal marsh food resources may support 1.3 million fewer waterfowl than they likely did during the 1970s. Research indicates there isn't enough food to support North American Waterfowl Management Plan population goals for wintering waterfowl along the Gulf Coast.

DU CEO Dale Hall said DU will begin this effort immediately. "Ducks Unlimited is pleased to partner with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation on this important Gulf Coast habitat initiative," said Hall. "This effort will not only offer alternative habitat to migratory birds potentially affected by the oil spill this fall and winter, but will also serve as a foundation for work that will help solve long-term habitat issues waterfowl face along the Gulf Coast. This initiative fits DU's long-term goals for Gulf Coast habitat needs, and we are pleased NFWF looks to DU to deliver it."

"Using resources from NFWF's Recovered Oil Fund for Wildlife, we can make an immediate difference for shorebirds, waterfowl and marsh bird populations affected by the spill," said Jeff Trandahl, NFWF executive director. "Through our collaboration with Ducks Unlimited, we can put projects on the ground to benefit these species now."

NFWF's Recovered Oil Fund for Wildlife was made possible with proceeds from BP's share of net revenue from oil recovered from the Deepwater Horizon site. The fund will support immediate actions to safeguard wildlife at risk from the Gulf oil spill, including waterfowl and shorebirds.




DU meets with Senate leadership to discuss national conservation issues

On June 23, staff members from Ducks Unlimited's Governmental Affairs Office were invited to the Capitol by U.S. Senate leaders to join a small group of wildlife conservationists for discussions on national conservation issues affecting wildlife, hunting and fishing.

The meeting was attended by 14 U.S. Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Attendees were provided an opportunity to exchange ideas about congressional conservation priorities in a small forum and to discuss plans and goals for preserving the country's outdoors heritage. DU has regularly participated in these senior-level discussions.

"We were pleased to have been invited by the Senate's leaders to participate in this forum. DU used the opportunity to talk with the group of senators about the anticipated effects of the Gulf Coast oil spill on the waterfowl resource," said Scott Sutherland, director of DU's Governmental Affairs Office. "DU often meets with members of Congress on particular issues, but this meeting provided the opportunity to get together with several Senators at one time and have back-and-forth discussions on a range of topics."

Other topics covered in the meeting included hunter access, the Senate's pending energy legislation and the need for protection of water from pollution.




Minnesota senator invites DU scientist to discuss oil spill's threats to migratory birds

Last Friday, Ryan Heiniger, DU's director of conservation programs for Minnesota and Iowa, was invited by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar to participate in a meeting to discuss the repercussions of the Gulf Coast oil spill on North America's migratory birds.

Ryan Heiniger and Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Ryan Heiniger (left), DU's director of conservation programs for Minnesota and Iowa, was invited by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (right) to participate in a panel on the impacts of the oil spill on migratory bird species. Photo courtesy Sen. Klobuchar.

Also serving on the panel was John Christian, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assistant regional director for migratory birds, along with several experts from Minnesota wildlife and conservation agencies and organizations. Each panelist had the opportunity to share his or her perspective on the immediate impacts of the oil spill on migratory birds, particularly with regard to species that spend part of their lives in Minnesota. Panelists also exchanged ideas regarding what measures must be taken over the coming months to restore habitat and bird populations in the region.

Sen. Klobuchar told Star Tribune reporter Dennis Anderson that she felt too little attention is being given to migratory birds in the wake of the oil spill. "What I've taken from discussions I've had recently in Washington is that there has not been enough focus on the potential effects of the oil spill on migratory birds," said Klobuchar. "The focus so far has been on fishing in the Gulf and the economics of the way of life along the Gulf."

"DU really appreciates Senator Klobuchar's efforts to bring additional visibility to the impacts of the spill on migratory birds, especially waterfowl," said Heiniger. "We are also pleased that she recognizes the proud traditions of waterfowling and the importance of accelerating both short and long-term Gulf marsh restoration plans."




DU supports coastal wetlands restoration diversion project in Louisiana

Ducks Unlimited scientists recently submitted comments on the environmental impact statement for the Army Corps of Engineers' prosposed Medium Diversion at White Ditch in Plaquemines Parish, La.

In his letter to the New Orleans District, Dr. Curtis Hopkins, director of DU's Southern Region, gave the following reasons for supporting the proposed 35,000-cubic-feet-per-second maximum diversion:

  • Louisiana coastCoastal Louisiana is the most important wintering area for migratory waterfowl in North America, with a population target of 9.2 million ducks.
  • Coastal Louisiana supports the largest population of year-round resident mottled ducks in the world. These birds are range-restricted to the Gulf Coast and are highly impacted by the coastal erosion crisis.
  • Plaquemines Parish ranks third in the state in terms of duck hunter days spent in the field. From 1999-2002, Plaquemines Parish averaged more than 31,000 duck hunter days in the field.
  • Plaquemines Parish ranks in the top 25 parishes/counties in the country in terms of duck hunter days in the field.
  • The existing Caernarvon diversion is responsible for an approximately 51-percent increase in waterfowl foraging capacity in the project area since operations began in 1991.
  • The White Ditch diversion should compliment on-going efforts in the Breton watershed.
  • DU believes the proposed project will ensure long-term sustainability of marshes in the Breton basin.

Hopkins said his letter represented DU's commitment to restoration in the Gulf Coast region. "Ducks Unlimited supports appropriate actions and activities that promote the long-term sustainability of coastal wetlands in Louisiana," he said. "We recognize full and complete restoration of all coastal wetlands is not likely, but that the dynamic processes that created and shaped the vast wetlands of coastal Louisiana can be restored at a meaningful scale."




Great Lakes Restoration Initiative makes lasting mark in St. Lawrence Valley

Ducks Unlimited and a partner have been awarded funds to protect 552 acres of high-quality wetlands in the St. Lawrence Valley (SLV) of New York. The $432,865 grant was awarded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) the $475 million federal program designed to target the most significant problems in the Great Lakes ecosystem, including habitat conservation, invasive aquatic species, non-point source pollution and contaminated sediment.

Indian River Lakes project
Two sections of the Indian River Lakes Project, located in New York's St. Lawrence River Valley. A total of three areas will be restored as part of this project. Shown here are the Grass Lake and Indian River parcels.

"This grant provides an opportunity to protect several intact and pristine parcels of wetland habitat," said Doug Gorby, regional biologist for DU. "We face ongoing fragmentation of ecosystems in the SLV that are vital to waterfowl and other wildlife. The land we're protecting with these funds provides continuity with existing protected areas, exponentially increasing the benefit."

DU partnered in the grant application with the Indian River Lakes Conservancy, which will own and protect the acquired parcels. The GLRI funds were awarded through the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture (ACJV), the conservation-coordinating body that delivers strategies and tools for protecting all bird species to implementation partners. This year, additional grant funding was provided through the GLRI.

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